Moving Through Grief

You’ve probably heard it said many times that you can’t get around grief, you must go through it. One of the hardest things we may ever do is try to navigate life while moving through the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual pain of grief.

When we are mourning, our bodies respond with fatigue, loss of stamina, tension, increased musculoskeletal pain, loss of balance, poor sleep and anxiety, just to name a few symptoms. Our minds race with thoughts of “What if?” and “What next?” and our emotions wreak havoc on our heart throughout the day. It’s a lot for one body and soul to take. Our immune system may be compromised which can lead to illness. So, what is one way to get through grief and enhance health? Moving!

Exercise offers a sense of control as we manage each movement of our body. It creates a sense of wellbeing and clarity by releasing endorphins and increasing blood flow to the brain.  Exercise is a source of stress relief while building strength as we address one move at a time. I can think of many times I would have preferred to sit on the couch or go to bed but chose to exercise because I knew both my energy and mood would be improved when I was done. When we exercise, our focus is on what we are doing and being mindful of our movement. This gives our mind a break from all the other thinking we do throughout the day. It may help to think of your 30 (or 10 or 60!) minutes of exercise as a time to rest your racing mind. 

Along with exercise, it is important to fuel your body with healthy foods, plenty of water and of course, rest. Releasing the stress of grief may help improve our sleep, leading to improved concentration and a better ability to handle changes in mood. 

So where to begin? Look into an activity that appeals to you – walking, running, biking, swimming, hiking, yoga, tai chi - whatever piques your interest. There are plenty of exercises that do not require any equipment or special location. If you are new to exercise, start slow! It is wise to consult with your doctor to ensure the exercise you’ve chosen is safe for you. If you are already an avid exerciser, be kind to yourself and cut back as needed. Your body may not be able to move at the intensity it did before your loss. You can move alone at home (there are many programs online), or if you prefer the company or even just the presence of others, check out local recreation centers or gyms. Be sure to observe COVID-19 safety protocols if you choose to visit an indoor  facility.  

Most importantly, listen to your body.  If it is tired, let it rest. If you feel anxious, it’s possible that moving through it will leave you feeling better than if you had not. Will it bring your grief to an end? No, but you will be better able to manage feelings of grief if you take care of yourself. In time, you may find that your grief is not as intense, and that you are physically and mentally healthier from the time and attention you gave yourself while exercising. Be gentle with yourself, this journey of grief takes time and patience.

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